Certain things, you know how they’ll end. The plucky underdogs in the sports movie will make the most of their moment to shine. Hugh Grant will get the girl.
The question with such things is this: Will the stuff leading up to the end we already know is coming be good enough to make us not care about already knowing the end?
I’d give a qualified "yes" to Thursday’s Grey’s Anatomy. ABC already has a show narrated by a dead woman, and Brenda Strong isn’t the title character on Desperate Housewives. So is anyone really surprised that Meredith finally pulled through? Or, for that matter, that her mom would somehow be the one to convince Meredith that life was still worth living?
What made this episode — written by Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes and Buffy veteran Marti Noxon — worth the preordained ending were the smaller moments leading up to it: Cristina’s shopping-spree freakout, Derek’s near-meltdown and his ex-wife’s right-on support of him, the afterlife sword-measuring contest between Coach Taylor and Denny. That, and a welcome absence of "Don’t you give up on me, dammit!" moments from the people working on Meredith, made things worthwhile.
Meredith’s brief time in limbo, or whatever that was, was something TV has done plenty of times in the past (Tony Soprano’s trip to Costa Mesa being the prime recent example). But in bringing Denny, bomb-squad Dylan, Bonnie the train girl and Ellis Grey’s former nurse Liz together, Rhimes both gave a big shoutout to devoted fans and let Meredith work through her various issues with herself (young, about-to-be-married Bonnie), her mom (Liz, the 20-year employee of Ellis), her work (Dylan: "When that shell went off I completed my task") and her friends/Derek (Denny, duh).
All the stuff between Denny and Dylan was fantastic; writers and producers of the world, find a buddy-comedy vehicle for Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyle Chandler. (And let me say once more: If you think Kyle Chandler was good here, you really should see him on Friday Night Lights.) Meredith’s exclamation that "I have intimacy issues!" made me laugh out loud as well, which is not something you’d expect from an episode about almost dying. So that was good.
Back in the physical world, I continue to be impressed by Justin Chambers and what he’s doing with Karev. His small admissions of affection for Meredith — "she makes me think screwed-up people have a chance" — were really effective, as was the way he provided what comfort he could to the pregnant ferry-crash victim. I’m kind of hoping the show isn’t done with Elizabeth Reaser’s guest arc; it would be nice to see that through.
Other thoughts on "Some Kind of Miracle":
- I was exceedingly glad to see Callie throw down with Izzie, and not even too upset when she took it too far. Nice to see George stick to his guns too. I really hope the show lets her be wrong in the long term, because even if her heart’s in the right place, she is not handling this well at all and really needs to get over herself.
- Like the consistency in Cristina’s inability to deal with death, which stretches all the way back to the season one episode that featured Liz’s death and Cristina’s unwillingness to accept a DNR order. Because of that, her 99-cent store binge and her emphatic "Try again!" to Bailey and the Chief felt earned.
- More Cristina, after Meredith wakes up: "I’m getting married to Burke. Not that that should be anywhere on your list of thoughts right now, but in case you slip in the hall later …"
- What do we make of Addison’s 60-day celibacy challenge to Sloan? I almost get the feeling that she expects him to fail, thereby getting her off the hook with him. Also? The quick cut to Karev when she asks "Who would I possibly be having sex with?" was pretty hammy. We get it, guys: There’s tension there.
- I’m not surprised to see Ellis die, but it will be a shame to have Kate Burton off the show. It’s pilot season, folks — get her a job somewhere.
Taking the three-part arc as a whole, I think Rhimes and Co. pulled things off pretty well. Did she play with our emotions? Sure. Despite that, and despite myself at times, I was engaged to the end, even if I knew it was coming.
How about you? You knew it was coming, right? How much did that matter to you?